Shouting At Our Cities

When I was in high school, the youth group from the Baptist church in our little town would take an annual trip to Dallas for a conference. We would ride in a rusting, two-toned conversion van with our church’s name on the side to join thousands more teenaged believers at Reunion Arena, scream, laugh, pray, and listen to Al Denson. I still remember one of the songs from those rallies. It urged us to “Shout! For the Lord has given us the city!”  

Those lyrics were taken from Joshua 6 where the nation of Israel conquers Jericho, and puts to death every living thing in its walls except the family of Rahab the prostitute. That was our approach to our cities in the late '80s. Take them! Conquer them! Soldier onward, marching as to war! We literally mustered at flag poles to announce our campaigns. We made war on our cities and schools. War against sin and against unbelief and, if we’re honest, all too often, against unbelievers.  

It’s amazing how our rhetoric has changed since then. Certainly there are those rallying voices who still call Christians to culture war. But we have come to realize that the cities in question are our homes too, that the conquest of Canaan is not our crusade, and that “love thy neighbor” means “love thy city.”  

In my journey through the Bible this year, I have recently read the story of Jericho again. I have marveled at God’s miraculous wartime deliverance for his people 3,500 years ago. But I have also marveled that we ever interpreted that as a calling for our current context.  

God, indeed, has given us our city, but not to conquer; to husband. To bless. To shepherd and pray for. And the only shouting we should be doing is in praise.